Does God Need Me?: Aseity
The answer to Hamlet’s famous question “To be or not to be?” is simple for God. God can only “be.” He is “I am,” meaning He exists infinitely and independent of anything, without beginning or end, as the source and sustainer of all things. There has never been a time where God has not existed in and of Himself. This is known as the aseity of God.
Aseity is not a word that will appear in your Bible’s index, but the concept can be found throughout its pages. Moses declares in Psalm 90:2 that, “from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” Job 41:11 reminds us that God owes us nothing because God owns everything. Jesus affirmed his equality with God in John 5 by saying that both the Father and the Son have life in themselves. In Acts 17:25, Paul explains to the men of Athens that God is not “served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.” And in Romans 11:36, he insists that, “from him and through him and to him are all things.”
The word aseity is from the Latin “a se” meaning “from oneself.” This is not to say that God is “self-made,” or that He created Himself, but it relates to God’s self-sufficiency. Thomas Aquinas discussed the concept of “necessary being” in his arguments for the existence of God. He reasoned that if everything on earth owes its existence to something, and that something owes its existence to something else, that would then cause the existence of an infinite regress were it not for the existence of a being that relied on nothing for its existence that all other beings were contingent upon. That being, he argued, is God.
Is your head spinning yet?
It’s hard for us to really grasp this concept, particularly because when we speak of the incommunicable attributes of God, we are talking about attributes of God we do not possess– ways that God is wholly other than us that we cannot even describe without facing limitations, because everything we have experienced is changeable, finite, perishing, and imperfect.
We need to be reminded of God’s aseity because we are often guilty of using our own characteristics and experiences as the template for understanding the attributes of God. This can make God seem just like one of us, if we were able to keep our New Year’s resolutions. But that is not God. Our God is not like the gods of Greece and Rome who needed man to feed them and serve them. Our God does not look to our prayers or sacrifices to determine how to direct our lives or who to bless. Our God is in a class of His own.
One of Aesop’s fables tells the story of a gnat resting on the horn of a large bull. The gnat apologized to the bull for being an inconvenience, saying “I’m sure you’ll be relieved to have me go.” The bull simply responded, “It’s not trouble to me. I had no idea you were even there.” We often act like the gnat, thinking what we do has influence over God, or that we can hinder Him, but we are dust in comparison to Him. We do not contribute to or diminish the glory or being of God to any degree. He does not need us.
You might be disappointed by this revelation. After all, it’s nice to be needed. But this should only highlight for us the incredible grace of God in our salvation. For unlike the bull, God is aware of us. Our Creator knows us intimately, inconsequential though we may be. Though He lacks nothing, He chooses to freely give to us not as pesky insects, but as beloved children. Because God has life in Himself, He is able– and more astounding– willing, to grant us eternal life in His Son, and to keep us to Himself forever. God reigns above all, yet He is not far from us. God has no obligation to us, but He makes covenants with us. Our God, who is beyond all time, stepped into history and redeemed us.
With the knowledge that God does not need anything from us, and because we cannot contribute anything to our salvation, we are left with nothing but to glorify and enjoy Him as our self-sufficient self-giving Father forever. Hallelujah! Though God does not need us, He loves us.
Megan K. Taylor earned her MA in Theological Studies from Westminster Theological Seminary. She and her husband, Joel, live in Sanford, Fl where she works for Ligonier Ministries.